Pride & Prejudice (*Sort Of) by Isobel McArthur. The Criterion Theatre, London W1. 5*****. William Russell

Janeites need not fear. This glorious adaptation of Miss Austen’s Pride & Prejudice by Isobel McArthur is a delight from start to finish, funny, respectful, it also sends up the clichés of the past versions while making the point that women in Georgian England without a husband were potentially in a terrible situation – and often in a terrible one with one. The cast of five – Tori Burgess, Christina Gordon, Hannah Jarrett-Scott, Isobel McArthur and Meghan Tyler – play all the parts managing the transitions from the men to the women with ease and total conviction. Directors McArthur and Simon Harvey keep things speeding along and designer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita has come up with a set which allows people to come and go at speed and is dominated by a splendid curving staircase from which people comment on the action or participate in it.
The gimmick is that we see the piece through the eyes of the servants who, of course, know everything about their masters and mistresses but are to all intents invisible otherwise. As one of them points out they have even seen them naked.
The whole thing is conducted to a selection of the sort of songs people sing at karaoke or in the bath ranging from Will You Love Me Tomorrow to You’re So Vain directed, of course, at Darcy. The production started at the Tron in Glasgow two years ago, then toured and was due to come into town but the pandemic prevented that. It has now arrived and the chances are it will stay for as long as it wants
McArthur plays Mrs Bennet and Darcy and is a delight as both, garrulous and somewhat foul of mouth as Mrs Bennet and pompous to the nth degree as Darcy, Meghan Taylor is a delightfully stubborn Elizabeth, and as for Mr Bennet – well he never emerges from behind his newspaper, an inspired running gag. The top seat price is around £59, which for the West End is truly amazing making this an even better night out than it already was. It is a case of Pride and Prejudice and Perfection.
Isobel McArthur: Mrs Bennet, Darcy.
Tori Burgess: Lydia, Mr Collins.
Christina Gordon: Lady Catherine , Jane.
Hannah Jarrett-Scott: Charlotte Lucas, Charles Bingley.
Meghan Tyler: Elizabeth Bennet.

Directors: Isobel McArthur & Simon Harvey.
Designer: Ane Ines Jabares-Pita.
Lighting Designer: Colin Grenfell.
Comedy Staging: Jos Houben.
Musical Supervisor: Michael John McCarthy.
Choreographer: Emily Jane Boyle.
Sound Designers: Michael John McCarthy & Luke Swaffield for Autograph.
Production Photograph: Tony McGee

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